SAO PAULO (AP) — The love affair between Corinthians fans and Ronaldo is apparently coming to an end, and the player's career may be, too.
Corinthians was eliminated from the preliminary round of the Copa Libertadores after a 2-0 loss to Deportes Tolima on Wednesday in Colombia, and fans are blaming Ronaldo's poor performances for the disappointment.
"Enough, Ronaldo," fans wrote on the wall of the club's headquarters in Brazil early Thursday, also calling him a "marketing boy."
Wednesday's result leaves the Brazilian club with little to play for the rest of the year, and may prompt Ronaldo to halt his career ahead of time. He had already said he wouldn't play past 2011, and has not dismissed stopping earlier depending on his physical condition and the team's results.
"I'm still a little stunned," the visibly out-of-shape Ronaldo said as he left the field on Wednesday, as some fans jeered him from the stands. "It's a loss we will have to carry with us the rest of the year. It's a shame."
Ronaldo was the team's biggest star and the fans' greatest idol after arriving in 2009 following a series of knee injuries, helping the club win the Brazilian Cup and the Sao Paulo state championship.
But as he struggled to remain fit and Corinthians failed to stay competitive, fans began losing their patience with the 34-year-old player.
"All of our fans are sad, but we have to try to keep our heads high," Ronaldo said. "Let's wait a few days and then we can try to analyze what happened."
Ronaldo already played sparingly in 2010 and could be seeing even less playing time this year without Corinthians participating in major tournaments.
Brazil's second most popular club behind Flamengo, Corinthians has only two chances to win titles in 2011, in the Sao Paulo state championship and the Brazilian league. Because it was in the Copa Libertadores, it will not participate in the Brazilian Cup and in the Copa Sudamericana.
Veteran left back Roberto Carlos, who didn't play Wednesday because of pain in his thigh, also was criticized by fans, who also damaged some cars parked at the team's headquarters.
Ronaldo said the field's poor conditions in Colombia contributed to the team's weak performance in Colombia, but acknowledged that the team "didn't play well."
Corinthians failed to score goals in the two-leg series against Deportes Tolima. The team's had drawn the first leg 0-0 last week in Sao Paulo.
It was the first time a Brazilian club failed to advance from the preliminary round of the Copa Libertadores, which is the only significant title Corinthians is yet to win in more than 100 years of history.
"Night of Terror," read a front-page headline in the Diario de S. Paulo newspaper.
"Nightmare without end," said the Jornal da Tarde daily.
Corinthians was already under a lot of pressure from its fans after not winning any titles last year, when it was commemorating its centenary.
Coach Tite was in danger of losing his job even though Wednesday's result marked only his first loss in 14 matches with the four-time national champions, who drew the other seven matches and won six under his command.
Team president Andres Sanchez, also heavily pressured by fans, said Tite will stay for now.
Corinthians needs to rebound fast because on Sunday it will face rival Palmeiras, which leads the Sao Paulo state tournament under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.